The Vikings will secure the No. 6 seed, at worst, if the Rams lose to the 49ers on Saturday night. A Rams win over the 49ers, however, would be the first step in a convoluted and complicated chain of the events that could end with the 10-4 Vikings swiping the No. 1 seed from the currently 11-3 49ers, Seahawks, Saints, and Packers.
Thanks to our research specialists at NBC Sports, the road to Miami would go through Minneapolis if the Vikings beat the Packers and the Bears, if the Packers lose to the Lions in Week 17 (which would give Minnesota the division title), if Saints lose to the Panthers in Week 17 (which would give the Vikings the No. 2 seed), if the 49ers lose to the Rams on Saturday, if the Seahawks lose to the Cardinals on Sunday, and if the Seahawks and 49ers tie in Week 17.
That’s almost surely not going to happen; even if the Seahawks and 49ers tie (which they nearly did earlier this year), the Packers losing to the Lions, the Saints losing to the Panthers, and the Seahawks losing to the Cardinals seem far-fetched at best.
There’s another potential path that doesn’t require a Week 17 tie in the 49ers-Seahawks rematch. It’s hinges on the strength of victory tiebreaker, which would potentially apply to a three-way tie at 12-4 among the Vikings, Seahawks, and Saints or the Vikings, 49ers, and Saints. This requires the Packers to lose out, the Saints to lose to the Panthers in Week 17, and the 49ers or Seahawks to lose this weekend and the loser this weekend to win the 49ers-Seahawks rematch next Sunday.
And, yes, the Vikings would be in far better shape to get the No. 1, 2, or 3 seed if they’d won instead of lost at Green Bay (should have won), at Kansas City (should have won), or at Seattle (could have won). This year, perhaps more than ever, one untimely loss has real consequences when it comes to seeding, and as to the Vikings the price for their 4-4 record away from home likely will be having to go 3-0 on the road in January to end a 43-year Super Bowl drought.